A Grin, A Grimace


He is, by nature, a Joker, a witty man with a sense of humor: “I’m not a monster.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/markhughes/2019/08/31/why-joker-is-not-toxic-and-how-those-concerns-about-it-are-wrong/)

Aizah Kamal, Reviews Writer

“Joker” begins with Arthur Fleck sitting before a mirror. He puts a finger into each side of his mouth, and pulls: up, a grin, down, a grimace.

In October of 2019, an astonishing, genuine, and startlingly graceful film was produced, a psychological thriller directed and produced by Todd Phillips: “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, and Frances Conroy.

Set in 1981, it follows Aurthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian now working for a clown agency, who falls into insanity and nihilism in Gotham City. His job consists of standing on the road with a bright red nose, green puffy hair, and large shoes, holding a sign to promote the agency. He is chased down by a few mischievous teenagers, and a fellow clown gives him a gun for safety.

Arthur is entertaining children in the hospital ward, singing “If you’re happy and you know it,” when the gun comes clattering out of his costume. In a moment of irony, Arthur realizes: “I haven’t been happy one minute of my entire life.”

This beautifully-made film has received numerous accolades. At the Academy Awards, this film received 11 nominations, including: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Original Score, winning Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir.

Although “Joker” was recognized for its beauty, I found that the movie was repetitive and exceedingly sad. I am not the only person who felt this about “Joker.” Glen Weldon, a writer for NPR, said, “‘Joker’ sees Arthur’s transformation into a mass murderer as inevitable. It’s not a choice; it’s something the world does to him. As a result of his passivity, the story becomes little more than Arthur suffering a string of indignities until, one day, heroically, he doesn’t anymore. It swiftly grows predictable, then repetitive, then dull.”

I thought the movie was very well-made, and there were a lot of interesting details in the movie. For example, Todd Phillips tied the film into the themes of isolation, trauma, and a disturbed individual who embraces violence and chaos. This is accomplished by depicting Arthur Fleck’s heart-rending life in which he wanders the streets alone wearing a clown costume.

Director Todd Phillips previously produced and directed a documentary on the violent, mentally-disturbed singer-songwriter G.G. Allin, entitled “Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies.” With this documentary under his belt, Todd Phillips had experience, which enhanced the movie by giving us a vivid representation of the life that Aurthur Fleck is forced to lead.

Through this movie, a man’s alienation emerges from social disparity, the decline of civility, political defilement, TV, and the government. Rich people are horrendous. Poor people are horrendous. The Joker’s grip of radical evil turns into a sort of honesty.